Overtourism; the 10 causes

Overtourism occurs when the negative aspects outweigh the benefits.

Large numbers of tourists can upset the local residents, especially if income created by a tourism boom doesn’t trickle down but instead leaks out of the country. As destination popularity rises so can the cost of accommodation. Furthermore, the noise disrupts normal life, and places of beauty are spoilt by high numbers of visitors.

But, don’t forget, overtourism doesn’t just affect the local population, the tourist also experiences the consequences of long queues, angry locals, strict restrictions and large crowds.

So why has this all occurred in the summer of 2017? Well, the signs have been around for a while and in places as high as Everest and as far East as The Great Wall of China. But, this summer’s conditions created problems to hit a new high for Europe tourism.

Here are the ten conditions which have led to this epidemic.

1, Tourism numbers are growing. Tourist arriving from China and India are helping stoke this steady rise.

2, How the success of tourism is measured. A country’s tourism success rate has always been measured in the number of arrivals rather than local employment or the amount of money generated by tourism. The ease of data collection makes this the measurement of choice, but importantly it doesn’t tell you how the locals are benefiting from the steady influx of new arrivals.

3, National holidays. When a country like China has a national holiday, a mass exodus often follows. This puts a strain on host countries, especially if these dates coincide with an international holiday of a country with limited holiday allowances e.g America.

4, Limited popular destinations. Popular spots, views, historical sites, and beaches are where the majority of tourists want to visit causing a strain to the infrastructure

5, Marketing. When a tourist spot becomes fashionable companies jump on the bandwagon to heavily market this destination. Cuba saw a huge rise in tourism as visa restrictions were relaxed, causing many problems for locals. Although, this condition can be the result of a ‘destinations’ marketing strategy. Iceland is an interesting case study, if you are interested in investigating further.

6, Dangerous destinations and travel advice. When a popular country becomes a ‘no go zone’ e.g Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia,  a funnelling effect is formed causing a steady stream of tourists to flow to limited and already oversubscribed destinations.

7, Accessibility. Holiday bookings, flights and connections have all become a lot easier and cheaper and so the destinations’ popularity increases. Furthermore, tourism has been called the biggest freeloader since many of the must-see destinations are free e.g Venice’s Piazza San Marco, Dubrovnik’s old quarters and the Amalfi Coast.

8, Tourism’s biggest and ugliest behemoth, the giant cruise ship. These ships land on beachside destinations and unload thousands of tourists all at once. Venice has been suffering for a long time and the Venetians unofficially voted to ban them this year.

9, Destination’s natural capacity. When there is no route for visitor overflow, numbers can boil over in historic sites like Venice and island destinations.

10, The summer holiday season.  People travel to Europe during their summer months because it’s the best time to visit for warm weather. With visitors from around the world visiting popular ‘must see’ destinations in a short time frame, crowds will grow.

So how can it be fixed?

  1. Firstly, it’s time more responsible tourism practices were employed to ensure the local population reaps the benefits from tourism.
  2. A drastic change in how successful tourism is measured is essential.
  3. Restricted access for giant cruise ships and strong marketing for alternative destinations.
  4. Restrictions and charges to popular areas would stem the spread of overtourism.

For more, follow me @conservetourism or LinkedIn.

Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash


5 thoughts on “Overtourism; the 10 causes

  1. I am sorry to sound like a broken record but it isn’t the lack of analysis …it’s the commitment to sustainable solutions. And they exist but they are counterintuitive and painful. Worse they run counter to the short term interest of those with the power and money. They also run counter to the institutions.
    We need to recognize Travelism (Travel & Tourism) in the context of broader glocal (global and local) change strategies. It is above all a socio-economic phenomenon, which integrates with realities like mobility of millions of people evèry day, housing, feeding , entertaining: with safety, security and comfort/convenience systems. And in a framework of evolving infrastructure, technology and politics. On top of that against SDG 15 year re-alignment of everything, everywhere and a 35 year existential reality of Climate Change that disrupts it all inevitably – perhaps to global chaos if it can’t be fixed.
    So yes to respect as a lifestyle and human value. BUT we need so much more if we are to avoid armegedon.
    The SUNx approach is a new sustainability commitment …we call it Impact-Travel – measured, green and 2050 focused: a connected learning/innovation network and the next generation aware of the eXistential realities and leading the charge to change.


    • Yes, the commitment to sustainability in destinations is lacking but… changing. I think with the recent events authorities hands are being forced and things are being done. For an example Dubrovnik’s decision to reduce cruise ship tourists. But, all of this will not make the problems disappear, it will simply shift large numbers of tourists elsewhere.

      I agree, we need so much more than respect for lifestyle and human value. But if places had a grip on responsible tourism earlier on, they would have spent the time talking to local people and creating strategies to prevent problems like over tourism occurring in the first place. Protecting their investments. This is a problem that’s been on the horizon for a long time and to be honest, due to rising tourist numbers I cannot see a quick fix if people want to continue going to the same places….


  2. Believe you meant SDG 13 as SUNx engages in climate change. Linking Tourism & Conservation (www.ltandc.org) engages to help reaching targets of SDG 15 (biodiversity on land). Very important to focus on the positive potential of tourism to play an important role to reach all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


  3. Hi actually i was just badly describing the 15 year SDG timeframe. (Tweet talk!!!!!)
    I do believe all SDG’s are important BUT Climate Change is the existential one that mankind has developed a potential solution for…lets call it Paris+.
    SO at SUNx we focus on goal 13 and all the other goals only to the extent they vector with 13. And this is quite self serving in so far as 17 goals with 169 targets and 304 indicators for transforming everything on the planet – with priorities set by every group that has a constituency is just too much hassle for me.
    And maybe, just maybe, we can play a small part in helping the travelism sector to actually recognize what existential means and do something to justify the leadership role it claims. That’s our Impact-Travel template – measure to manage + green growth + 2050 focus. And last but not least engage young people and community stakeholders.


  4. Thanks for your article. Perhaps there is an 11th cause – Lack of involvement of local residents of the tourism destination in tourism planning, and a 12th cause – Lack of long term planning for a sustainable tourism strategy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s